Friday, November 12, 2010

The Foreigner

It's always interesting to be in Russia because, as an American, Russians are less conservative about asking you questions about America, many of which involve stereotypes received from music, movies and TV.  You're also going to get some crazy propositions as well as have random, stupid things shouted out to you in English.

Let's start with the first.  Here in Elista, as I say in the StuffRussiansLike post, Eminem reigns king of music.  It seems that all the Russians I meet love Eminem.  One girl, who's going to America this summer, told me she wants to go to Detroit (Detroit of all God-forsaken places) because that's where Eminem is from and she wants to see where he lived. I found this really weird, but whatever.  Another student asked me a question once (unfortunately I cannot remember the exact question), but it was from an Eminem song and was either about the way Americans live or the slang we use.  As I said, I don't remember the question, but I do remember finding it so hilarious I had to stop walking because I was laughing so hard.

Just the other day I had a really interesting experience.  A man, dressed very un-Russian, but looking very ethnically Kalmyk was going to university with a bag in one hand and a cake in the other.  We approached the door at the same time and I held it open for him as his hands were full.  As we reached the next door, I again held it open and he looks at me and says, in English, "Are you Cameron?"  I'd never met or even seen this guy, but he knew I was a foreigner.  Well, when I got to my department's office, he ended up coming there as well so I told him that yeah I'm easy to pick out here as a foreigner (read: I'm white like casper, I don't wear black pants or shoes and I have looonng blonde hair), but he told me the reason he knew I was a foreigner was because I opened the doors for him.  This was incredibly interesting to me and also a nice compliment.

Turns out this guy is from Elista, but hasn't lived there for sometime.  He worked illegally in Tel Aviv for 10 months and then moved to Dublin where he has been living since 2002.  He was fascinating to talk to and we talked for quite some time.  He was back visiting his old professors and when they came in and everyone started speaking Russian, it was very fun (for me, anyways) to watch this guy, a native Russian speaker, occasionally (very) stumble over his Russian after speaking English for so long.  It was one of the chance encounters where you meet someone cool and make an international friend.

Anyways, back to being "the Foreigner".  Here in Elista, I am the lone English speaker and that has resulted in some interesting words being thrown my direction.  I've had several requests while walking about to meet someone's daughter (usually the mother asking me) that I've had to turn down.  I've had "Hi! Hello!" shouted at me by male students who found it absolutely hilarious.  And the latest was from students in my dorm who gave me a nice loud 'F*** yourself!' and had a nice laugh.  I'm pretty sure they don't really understand what it means, but they've seen enough American films and heard enough American music to at least know HOW to use it.  One of those situations where you ignore them and keep on walking.

So, Dear Readers, I urge to you travel and experience the world and see what there is to see because there is more than can be seen in a lifetime.  But while you do so, keep an open mind and a cool head otherwise you'll find yourself hating it more and more.


  1. Awesome. Yes, I feel sometimes like the kid being picked on and sometimes like a rock star as I walk around and bands of Vietnamese kids yell things at me. All good in the end.

  2. I hear you man. It's why I'm my big ole' trip to Norway! It's going to be so awesome! Granted, I wish I could stay for much longer, but a month is all I can afford. In any case, I can't wait for it. I will be kicking the world's ass!


    And way to be an awesome American- U!S!A! U!S!A!

  3. Erdni from ElistaAugust 8, 2012 at 6:14 PM

    That is true! Eminem is our king of music :) But I think you get a little wrong expression about Elista. People start talking with foreigns about pop-culture because they want to talk to you, but they don't know what you like or don't like. With my best wishes! :)